I love the rain because it fulfills every fantasy I have as a writer. Well, maybe not every fantasy. It is, though, a magnetic mood setter to my space: a comfy un-ergonomically friendly position on the couch under my eggplant purple Sherpa where I snuggle in my cozy jammies with hot French pressed French Roast, orange flames dancing in the fire and my dog curled up next to me snoring. The lamp next to me casts soft golden light as I stare out at the 10-story high gray oaks reaching up to water falling from the sky. Pandora Native American flute pipes in the background placing me musically in Sedona’s Boynton Canyon or some other sacred desert land. Pattering drops, loyal companions to the mood, fall steadily joined every so often by the rain gutter waterfalls from the back up. It’s the scene that poetry emanates from and much stereotype is born.
While it’s the truth of this moment, this is not the truth of 99% of writing. Writing is hard, hard work that is not romantic and does not involve hot drinks. It is a playground often patrolled by bullies who practice literary gaslighting and, if you let them, they will rip out your soul. It’s a messy canvas in many of its stages demanding patience and flexibility to see the full picture that may or may not come even after years of dabbling with color. It’s moody daydream, invisible ink in heady beginnings which can go on for hours, days, years before those swirly little letters decide when and if they want to appear in words, sentences, paragraphs, and stories to share with the world. It’s Saturn in its rewrite process, full of rules and laws that have nothing to do with fun or Sherpas or rain or hot drinks. Instead, she is Catholic nun–desk, two feet on the floor writing. And, only after years, have she and I become friends.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this because of how this thing called writing has materialized this past year in my own life. While I’ve written and published books over the past ten years that I’ve been paid for (pennies, if you’re interested), my first novel did not meet the world until last October 10, 2018 on World Mental Health Day (www.jamieweil.net). That novel, though, is not new. It is in fact the age of my youngest child: 20. That age is from start to finish: the prewriting in my head, the shitty first draft worked through my first writer’s group, the 8,000 rewrites including changing the point of view entirely 3 times from start to finish (this is not comma rewriting, but basically writing a whole new book), one agent, two editors, the interviewing of characters to know them so well I dreamt about them only to be told maybe I didn’t after all know my protagonist. All of this to one day walk in a high school classroom a few months ago and have a student say, “It’s not very long. Why did it take you so long?”
He was right, this charming man child. It honestly perplexed me as well. Still does. The answer, I think, is because it isn’t just me. It’s me and my whole dance squad. It’s me and my commitment to my readers to get it right. It’s me being willing to be vulnerable and naked in front of God knows who. These are just ponderings though, and I honestly just really can’t say for certain.
I’d like to say the second book is easier, but many authors I know that have not fallen in a complete rut of same old same old (often called building a literary career) struggle with that second book seeing the light of day for a variety of reasons that defy reason. It often has nothing to do with their skill as writers or the marketability of the story. Fortunately for me, this flowed organically because I loved working with the editor and press on my first novel so much. We were familiar with each other’s process which makes the whole nine smoother. With a name like All Things That Matter Press it was an obvious fit since my writing blog for so long was called Writing Matters and what I like to write about are things I think matter. Boom.
Additionally, my second novel felt practically channeled. By the time I’d cut my teeth on First Break, I had developed some of the attributes I needed for a second round on a new story. I had defined my core values in choosing the story, passion at its center. A friend and former newspaper editor/fellow writer reminded me last night about when he had come out to my house to interview for the paper about First Break and my next novel Intuition. Funny, I had forgotten the whole thing until George brought it up. Perhaps this was because I was in the dreamy pre-writing stage of the story before my left brain had caught up and logged it. From start to finish that novel will be about 3 or 4 years in the writing process, but inspired by a lifelong thread, a series of cross-points I know intimately about my babysitter’s son who I grew up with, played with, crushed on, and who was a serial killer.
There’s a saying I don’t really love but people around seem to love: it is what it is. That seems to take co-creation responsibility straight out of the mix to me. On the other hand, in this writing business, a piece of that helps to ride the wave. It’s better than sitting in the corner crying.
Another place I’ve been creating this year is in the world of visual media. What they call “writing” in film is a whole different animal with different spots and sounds and smells. I’m describing mainly the documentary playground I find myself creating in right now with A Crazy Thought (www.acrazythought.com). I liken it to the modern restaurant. Is the chain restaurant chef really cooking the meals? Well, yes, but really assembling them. And that is what the piece before the edit pulls is called in film: the assembly. It’s more pulling together what people say (and sometimes, I notice, manipulating the questions to get them to say a certain thing which is a whole different issue) and through that pulling out a story. There are many new skills to be gained in this very different kind of writing and it is MUCH more controlled, defined, and motivated by money than the world of book writing. In film, there are many other pieces used to tell the story beyond the assembly: the music, the lighting, the spaces used, the people chosen, the personalities of many of the creators, the length, and on and on. With the novel, it’s typically one author, sometimes hot drinks, and the characters, storylines, and sensorial spaces that writer chooses to activate. However, with the docuseries, now nearing the end of the pilot creation, many people can watch at once and I’m very excited about the possibility that opens up to share story, especially since my dream is to start a new conversation surrounding youth mental health.
The most interesting part for me of playing with the writing process start to finish on these two very different playgrounds is to try out the different equipment on each: one may have great swings where I can pump my legs and control how high I go, but the other may have the best kick ball field to play on together any park has ever seen and who wants to play kick ball by herself? Each space gives perspective to the other, and in the case of these projects, work together to lift up the planet through what I’ve named Mission ACT.
We come here to develop and offer our gifts, to serve, to connect with others, to have the opportunity to develop attributes, to help others develop their attributes, to raise the planet up in our own unique ways. I am grateful for this writing journey, in its solo magic rainy day moments like today, in its stern, knuckle cracking stages of final drafts and galleys and episode cuts, in its play- nice-with-others spaces, and in its I-think-I’m-going-to-quit again moments. I’m thankful for all of it: every season, every rain drop, every gray ski, every rainbow. ALL of it.